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How to use design thinking to solve problems

A brand new luxury city hotel was nearing zero occupancy rates during COVID (as were all hotels during this time). The executive team used the design thinking tools from our CREATE suite to solve an unprecedented ‘wicked’ problem. From just one of the unique solutions they implemented, they were able to generate $750,000 in revenue and they then outperformed their competitors by 150%.


How did a client from the industry most impacted by COVID use creative thinking to overcome the challenges? When we worked with a leading hotel we introduced the Strategies for Innovative Development (SID) model to identify two ‘wicked’ problems and to demonstrate how to address them:

  • What else can we do to earn revenue when we are not making revenue from rooms?
  • How to identify ideas that would increase the top line, decrease costs, and/or increase guest and employee satisfaction?


The CREATE program suite (CSI2+) introduced both divergent thinking and convergent thinking design thinking principles that enabled participants to identify challenges and explore a range of possible solutions and practical applications during the COVID crisis. The session provided the opportunity to participate in and solve a real case study challenge. The CSI session workshop series and follow-up sessions were delivered entirely virtually over a period of 6 weeks, and the participants also took full advantage of the online self-paced blended learning platform and Miro boards. Once the participants had completed the course they then could learn to use the design thinking tools to solve real problems.

The core program included:

The series of interventions for this client included:

  1. WORKSHOPS: In the core workshop sessions, participants first learn the SID model and design thinking tools. Then they worked through a case study, which was a chance to practice the design thinking strategies in a safe environment, with instant step-by-step feedback to assist with rapid learning.
  2. ASSIGNMENT: The follow-up assignment and presentation was based on the solutions generated to their own organisation challenge, applying the same principles and steps demonstrated in the workshop.
  3. PITCH BACK: The teams pitched back the solutions they had developed from the “wicked problem” assignment to a judging panel including the facilitator and exec teams.
  4. IMPLEMENTATION: The teams were then supported as they implemented their design thinking solutions.


“Your CREATE suite (with design thinking) paid for itself! I am going to share one idea that has generated since its inception over USD $750,000.

Initially, we were hesitant to participate in any government/ Tourism program to house quarantine guests. We did not know enough about the virus to “bring this into our home”, as well as the fact that we had not been vaccinated, and the impact it may have to the little wedding business we did have, as well as the negative connotations to being associated with the word quarantine.  After applying the training and several months into the pandemic (at that stage we knew a little more about the virus and the whole hotel had been double vaccinated) the team came up with a creative way to engage in this business.

We called it “repatriation” and we focused it on the food and beverage. It was all about staying in luxurious accommodations and eating like a royal. Indulging in gourmet food. We further divided the food into Gourmet or Bento (for our Japanese guests). Visually the photo was also of food (only hotel in the city doing this) and the tag line was: “Return Home- Eat Well, Isolate like Royalty”.

We were able to charge a premium rate meaning that our average rate and incremental room service revenue went up. Our RGI (Revenue Generation Index- a measure to compare ourselves to the competition) is over 150% (100% would be fair share) and we are the only hotel in South East Asia and Korea in the chains forecasted to make budget this year!!! The employees last month received a service charge of over $500 and we have been mostly (with the exception of 2 months) at 100% salary due to our results.  I could not be happier with the team. Thank you again!” 

GM of a flagship luxury 5-Star City Hotel